MCI is expanding the geographic reach of its Multi-protocol Label Switching network to 48 countries in a move that will provide greater coverage for its Private IP and MCI Advantage customers.MCI\u00a0is expanding the geographic reach of its Multi-protocol Label Switching network to 48 countries in a move that will provide greater coverage for its Private IP and MCI Advantage customers.The carrier says it will deploy an unspecified number of\u00a0Cisco\u00a010000 routers throughout the year, which will more than double the number of countries its\u00a0MPLS\u00a0network serves."We're making this investment because we're seeing increased demand and interest [in MPLS] from our customers," says Jim DeMerlis, vice president of data and IP solutions. DeMerlis says this network investment "is in the [company's capital expenditure] plan for 2004."MCI is expected to emerge from bankruptcy in the next few months. The company did not disclose how much it would invest in the network.In addition to growing its MPLS network, the carrier also plans to more closely integrate its multiple IP service offerings, DeMerlis says.In addition to the Private IP service, MCI is moving its\u00a0VoIP\u00a0offering to its MPLS backbone and plans to integrate its IP VPN Dedicated Services and network-based firewall capabilities with Private IP, DeMerlis says.The Private IP offering lets legacy data customers, such as frame relay users, migrate to a fully meshed network architecture without adding the cost of dedicated circuits between every location.NPC International moved to MCI's Private IP service last year and is now in the process of rolling out payroll, human resources and credit card transaction applications to all 800 sites that it couldn't support over its dial-up network, says Mike Woods, CIO at the Kansas City, Kan., company.While NPC, the largest Pizza Hut franchisee in the U.S., does not have plans to move to VoIP today, Woods says he would like to see the carrier offer more flexibility. "We'll always look to make appropriate changes when need demands. We like the solution they offer, and it meets our needs without adding complexity," he says.While NPC isn't buying VoIP today, MCI hopes that by migrating its MCI Advantage offer to its MPLS network it might be more attractive to existing Private IP customers. Today, MCI Advantage runs over MCI's public IP backbone and its vBNS network, which typically is used only by colleges and universities.The carrier is moving its MCI Advantage service to its MPLS network to offer users the ability to couple its VoIP offering with VPN services such as Private IP as early as next month.DeMerlis says MCI will continue to use its vBNS network to support call signaling between its IP and the public switched telephone network domestically.The carrier also plans to roll out MCI Advantage internationally in the second half of this year over its MPLS network. Today, its VoIP service is only available in the U.S.The carrier says it will offer more details later this year on how it will support call signaling overseas. It will not be able to use its gateways deployed on the vBNS network because that backbone does not expand beyond North America.MCI is also in the process of integrating its IP VPN Dedicated Services with its Private IP offering, which will let a company virtually operate one network regardless if employees connect via\u00a0IP VPN\u00a0or Private IP.In the second half of the year, the carrier plans to roll out DSL access to its Private IP service internationally. Today DSL access to Private IP is only available in the U.S.\u00a0 Customers overseas can only access the network via local IP, frame relay or ATM connections. During the same time period MCI says it will offer Private IP customers network-based firewall services for an added level of security.